top of page

Happy Accidents with the Dalai Lama

Yesterday my Photos app notified me of a memory from 10 years ago when I accidentally held hands with the Dalai Lama. But that moment is really the beginning of two memories, because I accidentally held hands with the Dalai Lama again one year later.

In April 2014, I was living in at Thosamling nunnery, about an hour south of the Dalai Lama's residence in the Himalayas. Word had gotten out that in two days the Dalai Lama was going to do a private blessing at his temple for ex-pats in the area who registered for the occasion. This meant that we would line up to meet him and each person could present him with a khata (ceremonial scarf), which he would in turn place around our necks with his blessing.

It turns out that far too many people registered, so instead of individual blessings, the Dalai Lama would take pictures with the ex-pats in groups sorted by country or region. Aides helped the crowd gather in the temple courtyard according to their country of residence, then the Dalai Lama walked from group to group accompanied by security guards and a photographer as he posed for pictures with Europeans, Chinese, Russians, British and so on.

I was standing smack dab in the middle of the group of Americans. I was disappointed that I wouldn't receive the blessing I thought I was going to get that day, but excited that at least I would have a photo memory of the unique occasion. As the Dalai Lama approached, an aide instructed the people in front to sit down and scoot to the sides to clear a path for the Dalai Lama to walk into the group and stand in the middle. As he stepped into the narrow path he reached out his hand for balance, and it was my hand he grabbed. And then he just kept holding it.

As you may guess by my smile in the photo, while the photographer was taking the picture I was thinking, "Oh my God, I'm HOLDING HANDS with the Dalai Lama. I'm actually standing right here HOLDING HANDS with the Dalai Lama."

The high from that happy accident lasted for weeks.

One year later, the Dalai Lama again offered to do a private blessing for ex-pats who registered, and this time even more people showed up. So, once again we were corralled into groups. The number of Americans in attendance was much higher than the year before, and I ended up off to the side in the large group. As the Dalai Lama was posing for a photo with the ex-pats next to us, an aide came over and said our group was too big, so he split us into two sections...which then put me smack dab in the middle of a smaller group.

I was there with my friend Nicole, a young lawyer from Oregon who had stayed at the nunnery for a few weeks earlier that year. Nicole and I were standing side by side in the middle of the group when the Dalai Lama approached. As he stepped between the people sitting down in the front, he looked right at me and smiled. He pointed and shook his finger at me playfully as if to say "You again!"... and then he reached out for my hand and squeezed in between me and Nicole.

I thought perhaps in my excitement I had just imagined the personal greeting, but afterwards Nicole (to the Dalai Lama's left) said, "Did you see how he acted like he knew you?! He went right for you!"

Whether that's true or not, it didn't matter. I was once again just standing there smiling uncontrollably and thinking, "Oh my God I'm HOLDING HANDS with the Dalai Lama AGAIN! I'm actually standing right here HOLDING HANDS with the Dalai Lama AGAIN!"

I'm laughing even as I write this post, the memory delights me so.


Recent Posts

See All


Unknown member
Apr 29

I'm laughing as I read this post. Your memory is a true delight, Mary!


Unknown member
Apr 27

What a sea of beaming faces. Lovely.


Unknown member
Apr 27

What an honor of the highest order🥰thank you for sharing...

bottom of page